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Partsbusiness2
Tersigni C
Apr 13, 2020

Why Pay for OEM Parts When Aftermarket Will Work?

If I had a dollar for every time, I’ve had this question asked of me over the years, I’d at least have twenty-one dollars and change. “Why pay for an OEM part when the aftermarket stuff works just as well?” It’s an interesting argument, for sure, but does it hold water? While OEMs have responded (slowly) with more aggressive pricing to compete with the aftermarket, the crux of this argument must be quality. This can’t be overcome as easily as a price point.

The perfect fit

As an automotive technician myself, in most cases, I contact my respective dealer for parts. My reasoning has never swayed: it’s about quality for me. Let’s say I need to replace an O2 sensor on my SUV. Sure, I could go to one of the aftermarket stores and get an aftermarket product – and it may function fine. However, not all O2 sensors are created equal. And, yes, most DIYers are not going to know that the voltage swings of an O2 sensor can set off your check engine light, but the chances of this happening with an OEM part are virtually non-existent assuming the vehicle was properly diagnosed. I pick on this part because they are replaced often, misdiagnosed, and frequently replaced with an aftermarket part.

The point here is not to denigrate aftermarket parts, but to show the quality and peace of mind I get when buying OEM parts. Not using an OEM auto part increases the odds that I will make the repair more than once, or worse, start looking for another cause. We all know that some OEM suppliers make products for the aftermarket, but when I buy that part from my dealer, I know he’ll stand behind the quality, and that part will fit and function as intended.

Fluids: OEM vs. Aftermarket

Another story I bump into on message boards is how OEM fluids are expensive and not specific, so an aftermarket product will do. Anyone who has ever looked at a fluid chart – even for one OEM – knows there are more than a few different fluids in the OEM catalog. What I have seen in the aftermarket is an abundance of “universal” fluids, from the coolant to transmission to transfer case to… you name it. This makes me a bit nervous. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Why are there so many colors for coolant?” First, manufacturers identify products by color, e.g., Dexcool orange for GM or Nissan Blue. Next, there are many different formulations on the market, with various levels of acidity and organic additives, and are far from the green ethylene glycol that served us for many years.

I’m not insinuating that any aftermarket product is inferior, but I will make an argument for using at least some OEM fluids. Let’s go back to coolants. Most late model coolants are good for at least 100,000 miles or about five years. Point being, why skimp when you don’t replace it that often? My AWD vehicle uses plain old 75W90 gear oil in the differentials, and I get why a DIYer would buy that in the aftermarket, but my transfer case? No way. It’s too expensive, only holds two quarts, and I only change it every 60,000 miles. I use this same logic for any specialty fluid for my vehicles.

Regarding cost, OEMs have come a long way to provide original equipment quality at a price that makes sense for the DIYer. I even use OEM oil filters, and they don’t cost more, on average, than an aftermarket part. Sure, there are times when a servicing dealer is not geographically convenient, and we swing by a local parts store. In lieu of that, if you’re a DIYer, save yourself some grief. If you are willing to tackle your own repairs, do yourself the favor by not skimping on the quality of your replacement parts. If nothing else, I want to fix my car once… and not cut into my golf time!

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